23 November 2007

Kevin Rudd to Unleash "Razor Gang" on the Public Service

On Saturday many voters will embrace Kevin Rudd and will trust him enough to give Labor both the House of Representatives and the Senate. To them, he appears to have miraculously bridged the ideological divide between the two parties and discovered the perfect balance where he can offer the wealth of economic conservatism and yet, at the same time, the compassion for the socially disadvantaged found in socialism. This of course is the dream of all Australians, whatever their ideological beliefs.

Notwithstanding the government’s good handling of the economy that has taken advantage of the mining boom driven by the rapid growth of China and India, many down-to-earth Australians feel that they have a moral obligation to reject the incumbent because of policies that to them appear to compromise the welfare of the Aussie battler for sake of free enterprise and his decision to commit our soldiers to a protracted military campaign that was justified by intelligence that later turned out to be false. This of course is not the view of all Australians, who are quite polarised in their views of the Liberal Party. Whether or not you believe that the Liberal Party’s policies have been motivated by a desire to create wealth and raise the overall standard of living for the good of the nation, Howard arguably has to be universally judged as ideologically a typical social and economic conservative.

Kevin Rudd has done the unthinkable by cutting ties with the militant unions (or so we believe) who now feel betrayed because he will not fulfil his promises after accepting millions in donations. He is also planning on slashing spending in the public service. This is a bold announcement to make just before the election, because it will cost jobs.

These voters will be excited to see this bright clean-cut rising star as being the ideal choice after waiting for a long time for an alternative. Unfortunately, the less apathetic voters who have carefully considered his proposed policies can be easily forgiven for holding an entirely different view. One cannot help but be sceptical about his promise to take on head-to-head the powerful unions who founded the Labor Party and quite understandably expect him to restore the power they once had that was diminished by the Liberal Party's reforms. Will he seriously be able to maintain an iron grip on his authority over the rest of the party to curb the former union officials who make up the majority of Labor and believe that the basic freedoms of workers have been undermined? One thing is certain: there will be no shortage of members who secretly despise him as a traitor and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are making plans on how to remove him should they win government at this very moment. Labor is hopeless at maintaining unity to further the party’s general goals, but such is their desperation that they’ve had enough self-discipline to force their smiles and wait a little while before bringing out the knives. It is hardly surprising that throughout the campaign just about everyone else including those expected to be on the front bench have rarely spoken outside interviews and debates, and when they have, left us confused with an embarrassing set of contradictions. Was Peter Garret really joking when he said they were going to do a complete back flip on the policies that have been flagrantly copied from those of Howard? Even before such a frank admission or foolish joke there have been such suspicions. If they plan a back flip, it is unlikely to be a decision of Rudd’s, and he’s unlikely to remain should this be the case. If he isn't swiftly booted from the leadership, then there will just be the same chaos that seems never-ending, only this time it will well and truly disrupt the running of this country.

The biggest question of all everybody is asking is what Rudd personally wants to achieve. One cannot help but wonder if underneath this well-mannered intellectual is nothing short of an absolute control freak seeking centralised power. Throughout the campaign he has clearly kept other members of his proposed front bench as silent as possible without arousing too much suspicion, and the lack of communication shown through the contradictions and gaffes leaves one wondering if he has run the whole show alone throughout his campaign.

It is difficult not to believe that this fantasy of a government that offers the best of everything from the two parties is just a complete con.

He has just announced that he, in the name of fiscal conservatism (which has become an irritating mantra, but seems to be having the desired effect) is going to sack workers in the public service:

"Well a razor gang is precisely what it says — you look at the totality of government outlays and see the extent to which fat can be cut in administration and delivered to frontline services instead,"

Confused that he has revealed that jobs will be lost, and not only that, had the audacity to use such insensitive words like a ruthless CEO in a board meeting? Don’t be. Use of the term razor-gang is deliberate and is spin at its finest; he is trying to promote himself as a shrewd economic manager who is prepared to make tough economic decisions. It is easy for common every day Australians to understand the justification for sacking workers in our government where there is clearly a lot of inefficiency. Also, he hasn’t revealed his hit-list, so you’re not going to see any picket lines yet.

Restructuring the government’s bureaucratic machine is no trivial task. Nobody can praise this policy announcement because he hasn’t shown Labor has improved and now proposes policies backed by proper study instead of nebulous ideas. It’s just too easy to give the impression you’re a fiscal conservative by sacking workers in government en masse who are easy targets. Well, easy for Rudd to do anyway.

After such a policy announcement from a man who lets us know on TV that he can beat Howard in a pub brawl, there is absolutely no legitimate argument to be made that Kevin Rudd has shown any more compassion than Howard when it comes to working Australians. Office workers are entitled to just as much compassion from government as our blue-collar workers on construction sites and similar unionised workplaces. One thing is certain: jobs will be lost under Rudd at his behest, and to make matters worse, he hasn’t provided the proper justification that you would expect in the formulation of economic policy and it is more than reasonable to expect that this should be provided. It is no different to announcing redundancies in a national corporation, except that he hasn’t even attempted to tell us what the savings will be. Businesses almost always explain what’s behind such decisions, but our prospective government announced this one and kept the policy away from scrutiny. For all we know, Rudd might have just thought it was a neat idea.

You might draw comfort from the fact that there are also reports of plans to do precisely the opposite and increase spending in the public service as well. The proposals are confusing and contradictory but he has every intention of axing jobs in the public service.

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